Monday, May 5, 2014

Life With a Dysregulated Child

Quick, before any of them realize that I'm trying to type a blog post.  Quick, before they realize that Brian has slipped out to go grocery shopping.  While they are blissfully settled in for a little quiet TV, before anyone steals someone else's sippy cup, or blanket or, spot on the bed, I've got to get a blog post squeezed in because it is getting harder and harder to find the time.

As the kids have gotten older they are demanding more attention instead of less.  I used to be able to squeeze in a blog after bedtime, but it seems that getting all six into bed takes 2 hours from jammies to snoring!  But the time invested is paying off.  Most of them are sleeping in their own beds most of the time.  Most of them sleeping completely through the night.  Most of them are mostly potty trained, and using silverware, and drinking from cups, and dressing themselves, mostly.

But we are still living in a house with some kids that are sometimes a little harder than average.  A lot of this has to do with the problem of dysregulation.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term basically it means that sometimes some of my kids exhibit emotions that are too intense for a situation.  Their response to the normal ups and downs of everyday life can be off the charts.  So here is what a typical day might look like for one of my most dysregulated kids:

  • Wakes up more groggy and grumpy than most children.  Being awakened prematurely can lead to huge crying meltdown.
  • Gets very upset about being required to use the toilet upon waking up
  • Gets even more upset about being required to take off soiled pull-up
  • Refuses to put on the first 4 pairs of underpants you try to on.  Will only wear the blue underpants.
  • Goes ballistic when he gets to the table and someone else is sitting in his chair.
  • Drags sibling out of his chair but continues to cry inconsolably.
  • Must have the blue plastic up for his drink
  • Carries around part of his breakfast for about 30 minutes after everyone else has finished eating.  Do not try to pry the bacon/toast/whatever from his fingers, he will flip out!
  • Carries around his blanket with him the rest of the day.  Do not try to pry it from his fingers, he will flip out!
  • Becomes inconsolable when the Wiggles DVD gets stuck and we have to turn it off and watch something different.
  • Throws a Thomas the Train at a sibling in a wild rage because the Wiggles DVD is stuck.  
  • Spills his drink on the floor at lunch.  Stares at it and cries.
  • Will not put on sandals for a trip to the park.  Must have the green tennis shoes.  Will only wear those shoes.  But the left shoe is missing.  SOMEBODY BETTER FIND THE DAMN LEFT SHOE or none of us are going to be able to go to the park.
  • Falls down at the park.  Cries for the next 30 minutes.  Will not play on the equipment.  Sits and mopes.  Complains about being at the park.  Cries when it is time to leave the park.
  • Will not take a nap, will not take a nap, will take a nap, WILL NOT TAKE A NAP!!!
  • Wakes up from nap groggy and in a trance-like state.  Will not got use the toilet.
  • Will only use the small fork or the green spoon at dinner.  And of course, the blue cup.
  • Goes into a meltdown when Brian puts spaghetti sauce on the spaghetti.
  • Absolutely FLIPS OUT at bath time.  Is suddenly, unexplainably terrified for water to touch his skin.
  • Will not put on the pjs/nightgown I have picked out.  It is the wrong color/pattern/style.  Refuses to put on night time pull up.
  • Chucks book across the room at sibling because sibling has the better book.
  • Cries/sobs/thrashes around like someone on fire at bedtime.
  • Falls asleep, but wakes up in the middle of the night screaming and sweating in terror.
  • And then it all starts over again....
Now this is not just one of my kids.  This list is sort of a collage of our dysregulation in a typical day.  Some days are better than others.  Some days one kid seems to be really out of whack, but the others are doing better.  Some days are beyond hard.  I find my self yelling and swearing and crying.  And just as dysregulated as my kids.  However, I will say that almost everyday is a tiny bit better than the last.  We see small miracles of improvement.  Having the pool open has made a tremendous difference.  All my kids are big water lovers, and a good soak in the pool seems to help regulate a couple of them better than almost anything else. 

Our toughest nut is really coming along so well.  When Manny was placed in my arms the first thing the foster father said about him was "this one cries all the time!"  And so he did, for about his first year home, almost constant crying, constant distress.  He had a very hard time with attachment, despite the fact that he was just 6 months old.  He barely slept that first year either.  But he is starting come out of crying sprees quicker and easier. We're learning his triggers and trying harder not to set off the ticking time bomb inside his brain.  He smiles more, hugs more, laughs more.  Sometimes he'll let me rock him on my lap like a little baby.  He seems to have realized he missed out on something important in those early months and he wants it back. And nothing melts this mama's heart more than when my giant sized baby boy reaches his arms up and wants to be carried.

So its an hour and a half later, Brian is home and his return got everyone that wasn't already asleep dysregulated all over again.  JoJo is wide awake and ready to party.  Louise is screaming as if Katriel is yanking her toes off. Grace, who on the surface seems calm and cool, is too nervous to sleep if I'm not laying next to her. But tomorrow is another day.  Each them will a get a little closer to "normal".  Hopefully each of them will feel a little bit more loved. I will try not to yell.  I will try to be more patient and understanding.  I will try to remember to pray and then react.  I will try most especially to recognize and celebrate the small, amazing changes to my small, amazing children.
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